Along Mariano Riveras farewell tour which comes to a close this afternoon in Houston the retiring New York Yankee has been celebrated as much for being one of baseballs most humble ambassadors as for being its most decorated relief pitcher.
The Fayle family from Lowville is one of dozens around the nation that can tell you why.
Mike Fayle, along with his parents, wife and three sons, was granted a request to meet Rivera prior to a July 26 game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium.
Once in a lifetime opportunity for us, Fayle said. To say well get that lucky again, I dont think that will ever happen. But it was just a very cool experience.
The Fayle family visit was one of the many along Riveras season-long Farewell Tour.
Their story was one of several chronicled by ESPNNewYork.com writer Ian OConnor two weeks ago.
(Rivera) was just a classy guy and took the time, he sure as heck didnt run us out of there, Fayle added. He was like, Welcome, come on in, come on in. He shook everybodys hand and he gave my mom a hug.
Rivera had announced his intention to retire at seasons end at age 43 as Major League Baseballs all-time career leader with 652 saves, entering todays game. His 18-year career includes five World Series titles, the 1999 World Series Most Valuable Player award and 13 all-star appearances.
But before hanging it up, Rivera wanted to partner with the Yankees to meet with fans before and after games throughout his final season.
According to OConnors article, the victory lap included town hall meetings at 18 ballparks in 17 cities along with personal visits with the terminally ill, bombing victims, grieving family members, or just regular everyday people – like the Fayles.
He was very cordial and sincere, said Fayle, a lifelong Yankees fan that attends a game each summer.
Just a guy who works hard and tries to do good for a lot of people. Hes paying it forward with his career, not only just getting his millions, but hes turned around and done a lot of good things in return.
Fayles father, Tom, saw an ad for the Farewell Tour on the YES Network this spring.
He wrote a letter to the Yankees media relations office with a request for his grandson, Connor, and Mikes other two sons to meet Rivera before the July game, right around the time of Connors 16th birthday.
Tom Fayle grew up in the Bronx and often waited in the parking lot hoping to meet his favorite Yankee, Mickey Mantle. Toms mother was also a die-hard fan and would attend games to watch Babe Ruth.
It must have caught their attention, and I think a lot of it was the generation thing, Mike Fayle said. Heres just everyday people that are still loyal to our organization and come and watch games when they can.
The Yankees contacted Mike Fayle not too long after that and said the request had been granted.
At first I was like, Yeah, OK. Who is this? I thought someone was playing a game with me, he said.
Fayle told his wife and mother but kept it a secret from his father and sons.
We had the poker face going, and it worked, Fayle said.
I would tell my dad: There are so many Yankee fans all around the world and theyre probably getting a thousand letters a day and a thousand requests, and were just from small Lowville. What are the chances? Probably nothings going to happen, but thank you for trying.
When the Fayles arrived at the game, Mike told his family that they had to enter through the media gate because it had the best merchandise booth.
They then met their hostess, went onto the field for batting practice and met some of their other favorites, like second baseman Robinson Cano and manager Joe Girardi, to name a few.
Were bleacher seat people, Fayle said. We dont go to the first or third baseline or right behind home plate, were just simple folk and we keep it simple. The Yankees were very nice, and the surprise for my dad and my kids, they were just floored. The day of the game, they couldnt believe it.
The clan was then taken to the clubhouse, where MLBs greatest closer ever sat in shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops.
He chatted and signed balls for the group and left a special message on Connors ball, which was from a 2008 game in Toronto that Rivera tossed to him while on shagging duty for pregame batting practice. It said, under the signature The last to wear 42.
He definitely went out of his way for us and obviously he didnt have to. He was just very sincere and I appreciated that for the kids sake, Fayle said.
Just this week, Fayle unexpectedly received photos in the mail from the Yankees that were signed by Rivera.